January 23, 2015
Journal #8 Throughout different periods the purpose and intent of art has changed with time. Different artists make their art to appeal to different audiences and for different purposes. One factor that has remained constant throughout art history, however, is the goals of artists to engage in social and political commentary about the environment around them. This trend can be seen in the artistic style of Barbara Kruger in the modern era. Barbara Kruger is an American conceptual artist that specializes in the use of photographs mixed with traditional types of art. These unique creations allow Kruger to depict what she considers flaws in society in a unique and creative way. One work that stands out in particular between her various other works and creations is the piece “Your Body is a Battleground.” This work is one of Kruger’s most famous and features all the traditional art styles that Kruger is most known for. Featuring her trademark white letters against a red background and one of her famous artistic sayings. Much of her text calls attention to the ideas of feminism and individual autonomy. This work also covers the ideas of desire and frequently appropriates images from mainstream magazines at the time to use in her pictures. Kruger succeeds in taking images and using her bold phrases to frame them in a new and unique context. In many interviews Kruger describes the nature of her work saying, “I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren’t.”1 For Kruger pictures offer a way to take what exists in society and critics it within its own medium. This style of art helps to make her art even more significant and increases the ability of it to critique her society and the culture around her. In this particular work she brings her support to the Women’s March on Washington in addition to legal abortion. This march was very controversial when it occurred and Kruger placed herself at the center of the conflict with this piece of art. She gives her support to the women’s right and also succeeds in creating a work that captures the idea of the issue.
This work has been praised and criticized for the way it covers it subject material. Many call the work bizarre and haunting for the way it crops the image and the gaze of the figure. The figure stares directly ahead gazing at the viewer while a line starkly cuts through the middle of her symmetrical face. The image on the left is in positive while the image on the right is a negative one. The phrase “your body is a battleground” also serves to contrast the colors of the photos and acts another center to draw ones eyes to. At first the work seems to spilt the reproductive health debate into two different sides, those in support of a woman’s right to choose and those against it. Kruger uses the two different halves of the image-the positive and the negative rendition- to emphasize the twofold nature underlying within this issue. In the case of abortion, the campaign for a woman’s right to choose occurs outside of her body, yet directly affects her. The female body becomes a combat zone that women both struggle for and in. While Kruger offers a more contemporary example of how art can be used in the idea of protests she is certainly not the first artist to do so. Another famous example from a 19th century artist can be seen in the work of Jacob Riis in his piece How the Other Half Lives. Considered by many to be one the most famous and influential photo works from the time these works continue to be shown today and still have practical use. This work was a collection of different photographs of the life of members of the lowest in society in the city slums. During the industrial revolution a new class of individuals of total abject poverty was created that occupied the lowest slums of society. This class was totally ignored by the upper middle class and richer members of society despite